Washington holds off Arizona State for 60-54 win

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by John Marshall/AP Basketball Writer

The Associated Press

Posted on January 27, 2012 at 9:34 AM

Updated Friday, Jan 27 at 9:38 AM

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Tony Wroten patiently prodded the defense, found an opening and took off.
 
Seeing an opposing player slide under the basket, the freshman didn't hesitate, launching himself into the air to throw down a rim-shaking dunk, sending the defender sprawling to the floor.
 
His team in need of a basket against a gritty opponent, Wroten provided an emphatic one that had even him amazed.
 
Wroten scored 22 points and ended a pair of rallies with three-point plays, including a dunk over Arizona State's Jonathan Gilling, lifting Washington to a 60-54 win over the Sun Devils on Thursday night.
 
"That might have been the best dunk I've ever had," said Wroten, who screamed and pointed to the crowd after the dunk. "I wasn't even expecting that to happen. He just moved over and I just dunked on him, I guess."
 
Washington (13-7, 6-2 Pac-12) labored offensively in the first half and struggled from the perimeter all night, making just 1 of 8 from 3-point range. Second-leading scorer Terrence Ross struggled to find his shot, missing his only two shots of the second half while going 4 of 13 from the floor.
 
No need to worry with Wroten on the floor.
 
The athletic, 6-foot-5 guard gave the Huskies a spark, hitting 9 of 12 shots, grabbing six rebounds and handing out three assists. He also had the two biggest plays of the game, the dunk over Gilling for a three-point play to put Washington up seven and a putback to make it 53-46 with just over a minute left.
 
"He was the difference in the game tonight," Arizona State coach Herb Sendek said.
 
Arizona State (6-14, 2-6) had its chances before Wroten's big plays.
 
The Sun Devils kept the high-scoring Huskies in check in the first half and fell into a big hole after going scoreless for more than 6 minutes to open the second, yet found a way to claw their way back behind Gilling.
 
He hit two of his five 3-pointers in the final 6 minutes to keep Arizona State close, but the Sun Devils never made it all the way back from the early hole to lose their third straight without leading scorer Trent Lockett, out with a right ankle sprain.
 
"I really thought we could beat these guys," said Gilling, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds. "Maybe they're more athletic than us, but I don't think their players are better than us, so I'm really disappointed."
 
After an up-and-down nonconference season, Washington has pulled it together in the Pac-12.
 
The Huskies entered Thursday night's game just a half-game behind California and Oregon after winning four of five, and have been rolling with their up-tempo style, leading the conference in scoring at 78 points per game. Washington rolled in its last game, bouncing back from a loss to Cal with a 76-63 win over Stanford behind Wroten's 21 points.
 
The Huskies figured to have another easy game lined up against wobbly Arizona State.
 
The senior-less Sun Devils struggled the start of the season, struggling with turnovers, suspensions and injuries.
 
Arizona State has been unsteady at the point, even before Keala King was dismissed from the team earlier this month, and entering Thursday ranked 333rd out of 336 teams in turnover margin, forcing 10.3 per game while giving it away an average of 16.6 times.
 
The Sun Devils have struggled offensively all season, and it's gotten worse since Lockett went down against Oregon State. They managed to beat the Beavers, but scored just 54 points in a lopsided loss to Colorado and 43 in a blowout against Utah on Saturday, one of its worst games in Sendek's six seasons in the desert.

It didn't start off as a walkover.
 
Arizona State struggled early against Washington, missing eight of its first 11 shots, and went more than 4 minutes without a field goal later in the half. The Sun Devils made up for it with solid defense and kept the game at a favorable-to-them slow pace to lead 24-22 at halftime after Chris Colvin's buzzer-beating, coast-to-coast layup.
 
The Huskies struggled against Arizona State's zone, taking tough shots against pressure and dribbling into the lane with nowhere to go. Washington missed all three of its 3-point attempts and was 10 of 26 overall in its lowest-scoring half of the season.
 
Washington started to find a rhythm on offense in the second half, hitting five of its first six shots while tightening up defensively to open with a 14-1 run.
 
The Huskies hounded Colvin into three turnovers in the first 5 minutes -- two that sailed into the crowd -- and held the Sun Devils scoreless until Ruslan Pateev hit a layup at 13:52.
 
"We came out early and were hardly contesting any of their shots," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "More on the defensive end, we came out (in the second half) and didn't leave their shooters open, had better position."
 
Arizona State clawed its way back to within four, but the Wroten dunk over Gilling put the Huskies up 46-39 with 5 1/2 minutes left.
 
The Sun Devils pulled within four on a 3-pointer by Gilling with 1:39 left, but Wroten answered with another three-point play on a putback, and the Huskies maintained their cushion over the closing seconds to send Arizona State to its ninth loss in 11 games.
 
"It just wasn't so much a function of actions or things like that, (it's) just our awareness, especially on the defensive end and our constitution of making plays that we're capable of making," Sendek said.

  
 

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